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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Carbon Dioxide

When I was a young child, I remember speculating with my school classmates about how close a nuclear bomb blast might occur if there were all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. I grew up about 25 miles from Sheppard Air Force Base, which we all assumed was a potential target of the Soviets. It was an odd, concerning feeling deep in the gut, to contemplate the possibility of suffering radiation poisoning and the end of the world. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone, certainly not little kids, that gnawing deep-down fear that occasionally welled up depending on the news.

That’s partly why the fear-mongering over global warming is more than just an aggravation to me. It makes me angry that propagandists like Al Gore have so frightened kids about the future that one has turned herself into an advertisement for depression treatment and anger management. I am especially angry because the truth about climate and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the opposite of what the mainstream news doses us with on a daily basis. The news is actually good.

At the current 400 parts per million (400 millionths of a unit), CO2 makes up a tiny fraction of our atmosphere. In percentage terms, it is 0.04% of all the gas in the earth’s atmosphere. It turns out that plants essentially suffocate when CO2 falls below 0.015% of our atmosphere (150 parts per million), and if plants suffocate, we all know from the food chain that all terrestrial animal life, including humans, goes extinct.

During the last glaciation (the entire epoch in which we live, the Holocene, is technically an ice age), CO2 fell to a mere 180 parts per million (0.018%) as cold ocean water absorbed the life-giving gas. That means the earth came within 3/1000s of one percent of the atmosphere (far less than a hair’s breadth, figuratively speaking) of seeing the extinction of all plant and animal life on earth’s surface. By 1800, just before the industrial revolution, CO2 had recovered (outgassing from the ocean, like heating a cold Dr. Pepper and causing it to go flat) by a mere 1/100s of one percent to 280 parts per million (0.028%) of the atmosphere.

Had glaciation returned with CO2 at its pre-industrial level, there is no guarantee terrestrial plant and animal life would have survived, because life sequesters (stores) CO2. Life has stored billions of tons of CO2 as limestone (sea shells), shale, petroleum, and coal. Mankind is the only species to have found methods and uses for releasing long-trapped, life-giving CO2 back into the atmosphere, burning fossil fuels for energy and limestone for cement. As such, we are saving life on this planet, not destroying it.

And there is ample evidence that, in fact, the earth’s plant life has benefitted from more CO2 in the atmosphere. But get this, we don’t even know if we (mankind) can take all the credit, because in 1800 the earth was in the midst of what has been called the Little Ice Age, a centuries long cool period from which the earth has been naturally warming ever since. And as long as the earth is warming, the ocean out-gasses CO2.

For that matter, the earth’s climate changes for a variety of poorly-understood reasons. Among these are ocean cycles, volcanism, the earth’s orbit, and the interplay of sun activity, solar wind, cosmic rays, and cloud formation. Climate models – the global warming crowd’s only quasi-real evidence – build in what are now known to be exaggerated feedback effects in which tiny amounts of CO2 effectively cause tons of water vapor – by far, the dominant greenhouse gas – to be absorbed into the atmosphere. Those models, at best, only poorly account for cloud formation, something you’d expect from increased water vapor. They’ve proven poor predictors of earth’s climate.

So, while we humans can take some credit for greening the earth, most of the credit belongs to the earth itself, and the natural causes of earth’s warming and out-gassing of the oceans since the last glaciation. The likelihood, though, that we have had anything to do with the earth’s warming is remote, given that much higher concentrations of CO2 have coexisted with very cold periods in earth’s long history.

And so now I circle back to the charlatans pushing Climate Change Disaster. Are they really so ignorant as not to know these facts? Unlikely. One therefore has to wonder just what motivates them to push so very hard for policies that would force us to stop saving terrestrial life and compromise our own lives in the process.

All I can think is that it comes down to the ideology of wealth redistribution on a global scale and the idea that the rich only get that way by effectively stealing from others, so rich nations somehow owe it to the poor ones to impoverish themselves. Perhaps I’ll blog about that fallacy at some future date. Another issue, of course, is that our elected officials have become willing tools of crony capitalists, providing subsidies to the wind and solar generation industries.

Meanwhile, those of us who know better need to arm ourselves with the truth and push back. The fear mongers, greedy robbers of the public treasury, and social/climate “justice” ideologues are not going to stop. And the fact is, they are either very dedicated in their ignorance, or just plain liars.

Byron Schlomach is 1889 Institute Director but is not a climate scientist or geologist; nor did he stay in a Holiday Inn last night. But, he has read extensively on the climate for over 20 years. He recommends these additional resources to learn the truth about climate. He can be reached at: bschlomach@1889institute.org

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